tv Democracy Now LINKTV November 29, 2019 8:00am-9:01am PST
11/29/19 11/29/19 [captioning made possible amy: from new york, this is democracy now! amy: today, a democracy now! special. an hour with the legendary musician and artist david byrne. we will talk a about his time in the talking heads, his years of bike advocacy, reasons to be cheerful, and his new hit broadway show "american utopia." >> and although utopia may never exist,
may never be achievable, let's think about what it is we want and what it is we would like to chahange and whwhat -- where we would like to be. how would we like to be? that k kind of thing. and i thouought, that''s part of what - -- that is part of what the show is. it shows people an alternative way of being. amy: all that and more, coming up. this is democracy now!, democracynow.org, the e war and peace report. i am a amy goodman. today wewe are joined by david byryrne, the celebratated musician, artist, writer, cycling enenthusiast, fifilmma, and nonow broadway star. his new broadway show is called "american utopia." it is receiving rave reviews.
amy: "american utopia" grew out of david byrne's recent world tour, which the british music publication nme said "may jusust be the best live show of all time." the e production feaeatures dad byrne and 11 musical artists from around the globe, including six percussionists performing a s selection of sons from throughout his remarkable career feated on his s most recent album "american utopiaia" to highlight from his legendary band talking heads
including "burning down the house." amy: also, "this must be the place."" amy: "american utopipia" is just one of davavid byrne's currenent projectsts. he also recently launched the online magazine "reasons to be cheerful" to highlight sololutions oriented stories around the globe. david byrne recently came into the democracy now! studios on his day off. i asked him to talk k about the name of his recent album
and d broadway show "american utopiaia." >> it is -- wow. partly because it's sort of the last thing you expect to hear the words, especially connected with me, and at this particular time, everything that's going on, it's kind of like, is he serious?s? is he being ironic? is he -- does it have some other k kind of meaning? and i thought, no, let's be serious about it. let's be sincere. although utopia may never exist may never be achievable, let's think about what it is we want and what we would like to change and -- where would we like to be? how would we like to be? that kinind of thing. and i thought, that is art of -- part o of what the show is. itit shows people e an alternae way of being. amy: you also quote james baldwin in the play.
"i still believe we can do with this country, something that has not been done before." >> it's not typical. but i thought, but he said this. and i thought so he, despite of his life and everything he wrote about, he didn't give up. he didn't get totally cynical. he felt like there's still a possibility here amy: do you share that optimism? >> not every day, but i try to. i try to keep that alive. amy: so i called this production a play because that's what we say on broadway. it's not really -- well, it's certainly not just a play. it's not a rock opera. what words do you use? >> i think we just call it a show. [laughter] ok. it evolved from a concert tour, as you mentioned,
but then we realized, ok, , in a broadway setting, you have the opportunity to do something else with it. you still play a lot of songs, but you have an opportunity to a createn arc and sort of tellll a story. not in the literal story like, and then this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened. but you can kind of make it in a story of ideas that takes you from one place, and then you end up somewhere else at the end. amy: and you begin by talking about how babies have way more connections in their brains than we do. >> yes, , yes. it really is something i've read recently that babies have lot more neural connections than we do. until we are 20 years old, those connections arare being pruned and stripped back. and what a thing to think about.
on the face of it, they are kind of our -- it would seem like, well, does that mean we are less -- that babies somehow have more or perceive more than we do and that we have -- and i think it is kind of true. i think babies a are kind of getting everythingng. they just can't make any sense of it. and they're trying to figure it out. and to try to figure it out, they have to say, i'm going to ignore this. mom is more important than that person over there. amy: so babies have more connections, but then as we grow older, maybe to compensate a little, we build connections outside. >> that's what i'm saying. i'm saying are social connections -- are connections that other people is something that we, as you saiaid, that we grow as we mature.
amy: and the show "american utopia" is certainly a manifestation of that. i mean, it's so simple. i won't exactly use the word austere, but very stripped down anand explain who you wrote this show for. >> oh, -- [laughter]r] i'm sure, like a lot of things that i do, the show was cononceived as a kind of therapy foror myse. you want -- can we present something like this and is it going to have the effect on me and on the audience that i hope it might? i imagined that by stripping everything away, all the projectionons and eqequipment and stage paraphernalia and letting it be just us -- just us, the musicians -- i thought, that puts us kind of
on the same level as the audience in a way. we are not protected by having all the stuff. it's just kind of us as human beings talking to you all out there as human beings. and i thought, that can be pretty powerful. i mean, you see it with a standup comedian or somebody doing somethingg like that, but you don't see it in a music show very often. so i thought, let's see if that feels like a more immediate kind of connection between us and the audience. and then we'll start from there and see where that goes. amy: so here you have 12 musicians, including yourself. and you were all there in your somewhat austere grey suits, but the opposite of austere as you perform, and you introduce us to everyone with a simple sentence. can you share that sentence? about immigration? >> o oh, yes, yes, yes. that.
yes. i make various points throughout the show, but i try and always make it t very bee very whatever personal or immediate or not a kind of didactic point, but kind of like, there it is, you see it right in front of you. at one poioint, i make a point ththat myself, i'm a naturalized citizen and some of -- amy: scotland. >> yes. some of the band members are from france and brazil, etc. and i said, yes, we're all immigrants and the show, you know, would not exist withthout us being able t to be here. amy: so would you like to elaborate further? because you have more than a sentence in between performances about the pointed reference you are making about immigration, about this, for example, show not being able to happen if it weren't for all of you from around the globe.e.
>> exactly. the audience -- the good thing about putting that in the context of the e show is the audienence get it immediate. they have been dancing and enjoying this music and then you realize that you can say to them, this thing that you just enjoyed, itit would not be e here unless these people were allowed into o our counun. that includes me. and so it's very -- it's a very visceral way of making the point rather than kind of a dogmatic policy way. it''s like, you just enjoyed d something that would not have happened if we weren't here. amy: in n 2018, you said it in a slightly different way. last year, you said you created an online playlist titled "beautiful [bleep] in response to trump's comments. >> people didid write me from various places
and say thank you for this. yeah, i thought, well, let the music speak. that the music speak for these pepeople from these e countri. let them listen to the music they are making, which is incredible. amy: can you give us a thumbnail david byrne sketch of your life, how you came into music, especially for young people? talk about where you were born, where you grew up, and then how you discovered music. >> ok, i was born in scotland. my parents came with me to canada and then moved to baltimore for work. i was in high school, say, in the late 1960's. i'm old enough to have experienced that and the explosion of pop music. lots of people wanted to be an bands or musicians or performer in kind of thing. and i did, too. i was very, very shy. but i realized that perform became an outlet..
i could get on stage and d do kd of outrageous things, and then retreat into my shell. and i would have an outlet. i had announced my existence and creativity and then i could kind of f retreat again. maybe relevant to kind of young people, i had d no ambitions to b be a musician. my ambition was to be a fine artist and show in galleries and things like that. that is what i wanted to do. where i wanted to be an engineer, to do technical kind of work. amy: your dad did that? >> and i saw creativity there. it was similar to the arts, but itit was -- and our woworld, it is always kept very separate. so i thought of music as what does what you call, an avocation? it w was something that itit d for pleasure with friends and i i took it very seriously, but i never thought
it would be a career or a way to make a living. i thought there e are people who have g gone to school for ts and pepeople that are really, really good. i'm just doing it for fun. but eventually, it kind of one -- won out. amy: so you went to school. >> i went to maryland institute, another art school and i was constantly making things with her in hopes of kikind of getting a show. i had nono idea how to do that. but at the same time, i was writing songs. yes, audition -- some clubs downtown and i i kind of -- i i was very lucky. we were very lucky. it's kindnd of the right the right thing at the right moment at the right time. and there were other groups emerging from this club, the press all of a sudden was kind of payiying attention to what was going on. we were playing original music, which was very unusual at that time for bands at a bar
to play original music post of amy: like the remains? >> thehere was a group called television, patti smith. so we were all kind of playing the same venues, same places. amy: your college pal was named -- >> i had a college friend named marquis. i hahave my friends that were inin talking headsds for chris and tina. amy: and tina actually did not naturally play the bass guitar. >> no,o, she didn't. like chris, they were painters. their training was as painters. chchris, especially like music, and tina took an interest and dedecided she would learn. amy: so you needed a bass guitar is. so she came and said, -- >> she said, i'll do that.
coming out of, say, sort of an arty millieu, we felt that virtuosity in itself was not a high priority. it was not a value in as far as music goes. what was more important was that what you could comommunicate. and if you could communicate that in fairly simple means whatat that was available to you ---- as long as you did not try to do something beyond your means. but you could. with very little, could communicate quite a lot. and so the idea that we just brought in friends who would learn how to plalay didn''t seem that strange e to . amy: so yoplplay at cbcbgb's -- not very much -- and you open for the remounts and a music producer hears you from outside on the s sidewalk.
>> well, yes. so people in the kind d of musc world and record labels and alternative press, etc., started coming in hearing us and the other bands. and we were very lucky to be part of that at that time. i mean, if we had been -- i can imagine if we'd been somewhere else doing the exact same thing we would have gone completely unnoticed. i would like to think we were writing something that had somome kind of intereststing quality toto it, but i also know thatat there's a certain amount of luck involved as well. amy: david byrne, the legendary musician and now broadway star. his showow "american utopia" is on n broadway now. when we come back, he will talk about collaborating with brian enono, reasons s to be cheerfulul, and the swedish climate activist greta thunberg. [music break]
amy: this is democraracy now!, democracynowow.org, ththe war and peace e report. i'm amy goodmaman. are c continuining our conversation with david byrne, co-founder of the talking headss and star of the e new broadway show "amamerican utopia." the show has drawn some comparisons to the talking heads 1984 concert film "stop making sense" directed by jonathan demme. amy: i asked david byrne to talk about working with jonathan demme on the film. >> he shot a performance we did. and that's kind of -- it's kind of a document of the tour that we were doing at the time.
amy: like four nights in a row. >> yeah, he shot four nights in a row in one place so that it could be edited together to appear to be one night. and that was kind of the tour that we were doing. the film version is a little compressed. but similar to this, the show that i'm doing now, it was a very simple idea. but then fairly complicated to realize it. in that one, the idea was, start with the stage with nothing o on it, bring everythihing on and show the audience what it takes to make e a show. bring on the lights and projectors in the wheel in the equipment and this and that, and they get to see everything assembled one by one until by about -- i don't know, , halfway throug, everytything i is working. it's like, oh, we've seen how this comes together now. it's was an attempt to be really transparent. amy: so tell us about your collaboration
over the years with brian eno, one of the great musicic producs of thehe last decades, how you memet him, and what it meant for the to view work together. >> talking heads worked on three records with brian eno and i worked with him on two or three as well, including this most recent one. and we were introduced when we played in a small club in london. it was our first show in england by anothther musician, a y named jojohn cale whwho was in a band called the velvet underground and we idolized john and velvet underground and brian eno in the band, he was in roxy mususic. we were kind of bowled over by meeting these people that we admired very much. similar to what i was saying about working with musicians who weweren't virtuosos, brian isn't a virtuoso musician or technician,,
but he has lots of ideas. and he's willing to experiment a lot in the studio and whatever. so that appealed to us. it also appealed that we could talk to him just as a friend, as a person, and it wasn't all music business talk. you could spend the wholee evening togegether and never talk about music at all, which i thought was a goodod sign. amy: and you collaborate on for example, i zimbra. talk about that. >> in the -- yeah, ok come in the show that we are doing, i mentioned that brian eno suggested that we use thisis nonsense pom
by a dada artist for the lyrics of a song that we were having trouble finding lyrics to. we had a melody, but we could not figure out the lyrics. so the kind of world ofdada, this current show, i describe a little bit about what was going on at the time. and the context of these artists, they both did these nonsense chants or poems or, well, twitter is called his -- his a sonata. quite a few w became exiles.s. this was in the 1930's. a lot of them were exiled to zurich. they ended up in zürich and a lot of them hung out at a performance place there. a lot of their art was performance-based.
it was called cabaret voltaire.. so it was this community of exiles and refugees that came together making this art movement amy: fleeing the nazis. >> yes, fleeing the nazis. and a lot of them converge there. their art was very absurd and funny and -- but in a way, it was a direct response to what they were seeing around them. amy: why did you feel it was important to address fascism in the 1980's and again right now? >> and never say that bubut -- i think the connection is pretty obvious to an audience. i describe the context that these nonsense poems and their artwork came out of. there had been an economic crash. the nazis were coming to power, there was --
whole countries were sliding into authoritarian and fascist regimes. and i thought -- sometimes i pause and i go, let just let that sink in. see if you might see some parallels there. but i never say that. let the audience make the connection. and then i go on and t talk abot how these artists respond to -- what theheir response was. amy: do you have a great desire to burn down the house right now? >> no, i'm trying the reasons to be cheerful thing. i'm giviving it a good tryry. amy: explain reasons to be cheerful. explain what you've started with this online magazine. >> it started at least a couple of years ago. like a lot of people, i wake up in the morning and read a lot of news and enend up either depressed or c cynical or angry y or what.
and i i thought, well, that's a reasonable response given what i'd read. but i also thought this is not good for my health. anand it's also not good d forw to respond to o these things that i had been reading about. in being -- finding yourself in that frame of mind isn't a very constructive place to kind of respond to it. so i started saving things that seseed hopefulul or initiative, sometimes small things that have been dodone in a little t n oror in another country that hae proved to be successful. at first i started just posting those online. more recently, it became more official with a little tete of editors and writers and web designers and all that kind of thing. and itit's often called solutions journalism. it focuses not just on good news,
like some someone's donated a lot of money to schools or someoeone has done a good de, but onon a whole initiative ththat has proven to be successl and that one would hopope can e then used as a model and d adopted by other places. that's the idea. we don't have the time. we are not activists in that we don't try and get these things adopted. the assumption is that if we put it out there, people might discover it and realize, oh, someone's found a sosolution to this. maybe we should look at that. it constantly shocks me that people try to reinvent the wheel with various policies or whatever it might be when you realize, but wait a minute. they've got a perfectly good health system
that works over there, why don't we just do that? amy: so one of the things that you've gotten involved with is the bard prison initiative. can you talk about that as one of these solutions? >> that -- yes, ok. bard college, just a little bit upstate here, started a program where inmates at some of the colleges in that area -- and there are quite a few percent in that area -- can actually get t degrees, full on degrees. they have teachers and it works. people get the degrees. what happens is they emerge from the prison ready to get jobs, trained -- not jusust trained in makaking license plates or something like that but real training -- and the recidivism rate, the rate that they might go back in prisojujust dps..
i i mean, it's likeke -- line so ththrecididivism rate in the united states is terrible. i mean, instead of preparing people to return to society, it's almost like you'rere creating criminals. you're creating prison because that ends up being what t they know. this turns that around and makes people have a possible future, and itit works. so other p places have been adopting it. otother colleges and u universi. i thinink wesleyanan in pennsyla and a few others. and so step-by-step it gets adopted and seems to be a good alternative to what generally happens in prisons here. amy: i want to ask you about riding your bicycle. i have been reading your b bks "how music works" and "bicycle diaries."
you did not ride it here today,, but we often see you in town somewhere riding that bike. when did you start? >> seem to remember starting in the late 1970's. i lived in lower east side and soho, and there wasn't a lot of taxi service. taxis at that time to me would have been kind of expensive. so if i wanted to go hear some music or go see art gallery opening or visit friends or this or that, i discovered that my old bike that i had as a chilild worked really y well. and i abandoned it sometimes, but then eventually came back and realized,, oh, this is a great way to get arounund. and now, new york and a lot of other cities come have become a lot more accommodating. there's a lot more bike lanes, and there's a whole bunch just announced the other day there is a whole bunch
planned to go in and the next couple of years. amy: and of course, now with the whole issue of the climate catastrophe, you are leading the way. >> well, thank you, but i realized that i started doing it because it was practical and it felt good. it's a really nice feeling. unless y you're terrified. you are riding the middle of f traffic, but ifif you're in a protected bike lane or something, riding on the river, it's really a wonderful feeling. it is hard to explain just kind of coasting and steering and the winds blowing and all that. and i realized, that feeling is what is going to convince people to do that. the effect is it lowers the carbon footprint, but you're not going to get t o get peopople to ride just by saying, have to ride totoower your r carbon footpntn. it is hahard to convinince peoe to do ththings because it is good for them or good for society in general.
amy: which brings me to the 16-year-old swedish climate activists greta thunberg. and i'm not just -- >> i mentioned her in the show the other day. he got applause. amy: she comes to this country and she won't fly because she isis deeply concernd about greenhouse gas emissions. she takes this high speed zero emissions sailboat and comes into new york harbor. and we now know her as the young woman who addresses world leaders at the u.n. climate action summit a few weeks ago. and as they applaud her when she gets up with her long braid, she says, how dare you? >> people are suffering. people are dying. entire ecosystems are collapsing. we are in the beginning of a mess extinction and all you can talk about is the money and f fairytales of economic growth. how dare you.
amy: but i wanted to go to different aspect of greta --or it partly mototivates her. it is a link between you and her. in your book "how music works," you write about how you felt you s suffer from borderline asperger's. and that is something that grereta talks aboutut. she was sitting the chair you're sitting in. she talked about what she called her superpower. >> when i am really interested in something, i get super focused on that. and i can spend hours upon hours not getting tired of reading about it and still be interested to learn more about it. it is very common for people on the autism spectrum. and, yeah, and it just --
i think that was one of the reasons why i was one of the few who really reacted to the climate crisis because i couldn't connect the dots. why people were just going on like before and still saying, yes, climate change is very important. i don't get that double moral in a way. the difference from between -- between what you know and what you say and what you do, how you act. amy: t that is greta thunberg, 16-year-old swedish climate activists. we met her in poland when she was 15. her twitter handle said, 15-year-old climate activists with asperger's. so you also have talked about that in your life.
>> i think i i've largely grown out of it. that often happens, so i read. but i was aware, yes, when i was younger, as greta says, i was painfully shy but i also find an interest and i would jujust bury myself in it. which was, as she says, is a kind of nice thing to be able to do sometimes. not everybody can do that. and i thought, i never felt that i was handicapped. i felt thatt i was just different. amy: and where did the difference get expressed? >> well,l, i think that the fat that i felt socially awkward, that pushed me to perform. the fact i could things i wanted to say, i could announce my existence and be in front of people and a performance setting,
and then i could retreat into my kind of shy shell after that. but i'd managed to find an outlet. amy: david byrne, the legendary musician and now broadway star. when we come back, we will talk more about his b broadwaway sw "american utopia," as well as janelle monae, police violence, and more. [music break]
amy: this is democracy now!, democracynow.org, ththe war and peacace report. i'm amy goodman. as we continue our conversation with david byrne come in his new broadway show, he often takes a moment during the show to talk aboutt the importance of voting. i asked him about this. why are elections important to you? and what do you think about the fact that so few people vote in the united states and other parts of the world and placeses like haiti -- i i mean, in the past, people have been gunned down when they go to the polls or even when they run,
but stilill they do. in this country, little more than, if we're lucky, half the population who can vote votes? >> yes, i alluded to this. voting turnouts, especially local elections, can be pretty dismal. soso i'm trying to say, this really does make a difference. local representation, local laws, can really have a hugege effec. you might feel that impotent in regards to the federal government to the larger thing, but a lot of change can happen locally. and that can kind of accumulate. so, yeah, i've been pushing for that. yes, there are there are countries that have mandatory voting. and ifif you don't vote, they te your driver's license away. i think that m might be -- i think that is a good thing.
amy: getting your driver's license taken away.. or voting? >> no, mandatory voting. like, ifif you're goingng to live here, h have to participat. amy: and what about ranked voting? >> ranked voting is a system where, yes, you go, this is my favorite, second, third, fourth. so if the first one does not win, things move around. and the in result is, the person who ends up winning, it's a more representative choice. it represents more of the opinion of the voters instead of being a person winning by one vote and ththat's it wilill stop and d en half the voters feel like, that is not what i w wanted. in that system, there is much less wasted vote -- wasted as in my vote didn''t move the needle at all.
it's a system where everybody's vote doeoes move the needle a little bit. amy: i i wanted to get back to "american utopia." there is an incredibly powerful moment in this show where you're singing someone else's song, giving her full credit, and i wanted to turn to her, janelle monae, when she performed at the women's march the day after president trump was inaugurated. >> everybody, put t those hands in the air and sing with us.
hell you talking 'bout. hell you talking 'bout. amy: janelle monae singing hell you talking 'bout. what is really significant is where she's singing it, the day after president trumump was inaugurated when he was talking about his inauguratition crowd being bigger than president obama's. and then the next day, this mass of women --
hundreds of thousands of women putting his crowd size to shame. you were there that day, david byrne. >> yes. lots of us showed up. and of course we were all asking ourselves, what does this mean? does this accomplish anything? what does this do, us all being here? there were people being dismissive and saying, oh, this is just people kind of manifesting and then they will forget about it tomorrow or whatever. but i think not. i think people -- there's such a strong feeling when that many people assemble. there was this great feeling of camaraderie, people from all different walks of life being there that that kind of stays with you. that is sustenance. you can use thatat. amy: so talk about using that and what you did reaching out to o janelle.e.
>> i heard this song she did. she did a recording of it. i found it one of the most moving, i guess you could say protest songs, that i hadad ever heard. what was special about it was it is a requiem. it is just naming these people and asking you to remember these people who have been taken, these people who have been killed. so it doesn't try to explain in a direct way. you can put it together for yourself what is going on. >> say his name say her name >> it just says, remember this. don't forget t them. so i thought, given the times we live income i thought -- i often do a song by someone else and i thought, it is time to do a song
that has kind of some weight to it, the response to the times that we live in. so i asked what she would think of me doing that song. she loved the idea. got a beautiful letter back that said, yes, love this. the songs for everybody. amy: so how do you feel when you sing it every night? >> i have to say it is rough. doing that every night. amy: it's not just you, of course, it's the whole ensemble. >> yeah, the whole group and it's a part of the show where we put down all our regular instruments. we're all just playing percussion and that and -- seeing these names. it is incredibly moving. sometimes it is s really hard to get through it. my voice cracks -- yeah, it is that kind of song. amy: a and of course, you're singing about police brutality, whether it is atatiana jefferson or with sandra bland,
whether it is sean bell, and, of course, these names these are continually being added to. >> yes, we keep changing the names and updating the names and there's names that people will be very familiar with, and others that they won't know as much. amy: i wanted to ask youou abot a difficult time, david byrne. after "american utopia" the cd came out, you put a statement out, essentially apologizing for the all-male musical cast who recorded this. can you talk about how that happened? and one of the things i think that comes out very much in "american utopia," you say, i'm part of the problem. you very honestly said that after the cd came out. >> yeah, i mean, i c collaborae with all sorts of people,
genders, races, etc,, most of the time, but i was -- i was called out. what was intnteresting is i did notot even realize it that i had made a record and it was almost -- it was all men who contributed to the making ofof the record. that i is important ththat -- that someone like myself who thinks of himself as being aware and -- yes, about all this. it is so d deeply embedded in s as peoplinin the culturere that as i say in the show, i said, i, myself, have to change. i can be as guilty -- despite saying i d don't want t, i i can be as guilty as anyone else of this kind of f discriminatio.
amy: and you have a new cd out which is the live production of "american utopia," and that has the women and men in this performance. >> yes, it does. amy:y: the brazilianan artist you have collaborated with over time -- in fact, you're deeply involved with brazilian music. what brought you into that world? >> it was quite by aident. i was working and then on some of my spare time, i would go to a record store. i was very curious. i would see these records and i had no idea what they were. and so i bought a few, listened to them, and i thought these are really good. this was in the mid 1980's. and soso i went bought more and then i b bought more and then eventually i thought, i love this stuff.
what i heard was mususic that ts really b beautiful, melodic, and emotionally touching. but ththat also had in o other s was s very radic and had had things to say. >> and yet i thought, in their country, these are successful pop artists. what a wonderful thing that it doesn't -- it never turns into a formula. they are valued for this kind of experimentation and the work that they do. so i thought, yeah, i wish things could be m more like that here but tatake it t where you can get t it.
amy: it is a home movement called tropicalia. >> yes, i guess there was a revolution in the e late 196', early 1970's. it was eventually suppressed by the military government there but it had a long-term effect. amy: he himself was jailed. >> yes, he was jailed. quite a number of others. and similar musicians that i met later in argentina and chile, they were exiled or jailed. anyway, so we became friends and kind of either collaborated or just kept in touch. now for veryry long time.. amy: veloso, sometimes called the bob dylan of brazil, has been speaking up very much about the authoritarianism
in brarazil today with bolsonaro, the new w president knowown as the trump of the amazon. and he was introducing film recently, "the edge of democracy" by petra costa, talking about the jailing of lula, the workerer party president, and the impeachment of dilma rousseff. how does it feel for you to see -- and it is not only in brazil -- but to see this country, brazil, turning toward authoritarianisi? >> it's really sad. it's -- amy: the massive m movements. >> the film "the edge of democracy" explains a little bit how it happened kind of step-by-step. there's a a lot of machinations about how getting -- trapping lula and kind of moving pieces around
so that these people could take cononol of the e governmen. yes, it is really sasad. it was a countryry i love. i love whahat they, you u kno, how ththey live and what they stand for. but this seems like a real tragedy. it's -- well, you can't help but look at it as being something that is a symptom and that things like this are happening all over the world. this kind of rise of authoritarians, which is frightening. but in some cases, you wonder, what drove people -- in some cases, it is forced upon them. in other cases, there was a kind of desire for a strong man.
and you wonder, how does that happen? amy: you see parallels here? >> oh, yeah, i see parallels here. and in the philippines and other places. one of the things i've been thinking lately is that -- sosometimes the context that people find themselves in, in this case -- and our case, it might be the context of job stagnation or they don't see a future for their children, or something along these lines, or they no l longer trust the governmentnt combined with the kind of rise of the internet and social things where there's no fixed truth anymore. everything is up.
every story is up for grabs and anybody can be saying anything. and i thought, all those factors have a huge effect on people. and it's not that -- i think itit's more the situatin like that drivives people into a kind of desperate search for something as opposed to it being something innate in people. amy: you mentioned the philippines. what we're seeing today with the authoritaririan leade, the close trump ally duterte. you did this incredible -- you wrote this incredible musical track -- or you can tell me how you describe it. i don't know the lingo. for a public theater production called "here lies love." and that is about a previous dictator the family ferdinand and imelda marcos.
>> it was a well a musical about the rise and eventual fall of the marcos dynasty or the marcos regime at that point. many of them are still around. imelda loved going to discos. so i set the show in a disco. so it's a very kind of festive e atmosphere. it was an atatmospherere that she would have been from the you're with. amamy: and the audiencnce, we are all statanding throughou. we don't sit down. >> you're the patrons of the disco. you u are dancncing and having a great time. so the aim of that -- what i wanted to do was, i wawanted the audience, in some e ways, empathize with her and her husbanand. so i wanted the audience to kind of be on their side and kind of cheer them on, knowing full w well that it was going to end up as a dictatorship. the audience knows that --
atat least i think someme of them do -- and yet they are swept away and they are cheering it on. i thought, that to me is key to let the audience experience that kind of thing and then realize, oh, , look where we are now. now we have to get rid of them. amy: let's turn to "here lies love." amy: " "here lies love" atat the publilic theater.. ththat's s where it w was perf. and it was not only about the marcoses but also nino aquino, who famously returned to the philippines. and as he's coming down from the plane, he is gunned down and assassinated. the man that marcos was most threatened by. >> he knewew that was very likiy to happen.
but his death -- it took a few years, but his assassination kind of triggered the events that led t to the overthrow of thehe marcos regime. they called itit people powers. completely peaceful. people just came out and said, we're not leaving. amy: we're talking to david byrne and he's very good to spend this time with us because he has a grueling performance schedule as s he is a broadway starar right now as broadway stars do. but i want to talk about a few more collaborations and the people who also sing your songs and appreciate what you do like the great singer who recently recreateded the talking heads album "remain in the light." here she's covering the song "born under punches."
amy: that is angelique kidjo singing "born under punches." she told the finanancial times about meeting david byrne at the club sob's in new york and said "we started talking music. an american guy that knows about fela and knows about king sunny ade? this guy is crazy, but good crazy." >> i heard angelique and i was blown away. have left her as a p performer. we have e known each other for quite a long time. a year or two ago, she decided to do a talking heads cover ---
cover talking heads record t tp to bottom, which is incredibly flattering. incredibly. in some ways, kind of a vindication for me. that -- it's always this kind of balancing act between a white musician in new yorork doing musicc that admits to having being influenced by y african mumusic, musicians from other parts of the world. cultural appropriation. that phrase gets thrown around. but somehow, working with angelique -- you see it is more of an exchange and it g goes every whwhich w. amy: that was david byrne, the legendary musician, artist, and now broadwayay show. his show "american utopia." that does it for today's show. democracy now! is looking for feedback from people who appreciate the closed captiononing.